Shock and Fraud #63

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Deepnews Digest #63

Shock and Fraud

Editor: Christopher Brennan
Part of Deepnews’ mission is fighting back against the lack of trust online. Is the information you’re looking at misleading you? Is it doing it on purpose? It’s enough to make billions of people peering into their computers increasingly distrustful of the other people sitting in front of their screens. Our Matter of Facts newsletter covers misinformation every week, though this Digest looks more closely at the world of scams and fraud, online and off. We hope this selection pulled together with the Deepnews Scoring Model doesn’t make you cynical, but shows you that journalists are also on the case.


Editor’s Note: This Digest was inspired by the responses to a poll that we conducted on Twitter. If you want to interact more with Deepnews, or maybe tell us your own idea for a Digest, make sure to check us out on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.
Story Source
NPR
A for-profit college received millions of dollars from the federal government to help low-income students whose lives have been upended by the coronavirus outbreak, but that same school, Florida Career College (FCC), is also accused of defrauding students.

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WSJ ($)
The companies are the latest targeted by regulators for allegedly fraudulent claims

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Seattle Times
When Brian Slish opened his mail recently at his home in Samammish, he was surprised to find a letter from Washington state, saying his claim for unemployment benefits was under review.

Editor’s Note: One of the big, and tragic, changes under COVID has been millions of people losing their jobs. Here the Seattle Times looks at someone who didn’t, though was caught up in a scam when their personal information was used for unemployment benefits. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

Lawfare
On April 21, Rep. Jim Banks introduced a bill into Congress, the Online Consumer Protection Act of 2020. Its purpose? “To require software marketplace operators and developers of covered foreign software to provide to consumers a warning prior to the download of such software.”

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The Drum
Amid an enormous public health crisis, can consumers’ trust issues be remedied?

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The Appeal
When Nadia Metayer buses home from her job as an essential worker at a manufacturing company and walks into her Bronx apartment, it would be nice if she could take a hot shower. Yet on the first of April, the heat and hot water disappeared. Even after repair work, they remained inconsistent, with the latest complaint of a building-wide outage on May 6, according to tenants’ 311 complaints. Sometimes Metayer would resort to cleaning herself the way her Haitian-Dominican family does “back home on the islands”: boil water, then bathe with a bucket.

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Boston Globe ($)
On February 24, more than two weeks before the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, a man named Craven Casper allegedly registered a website with the purpose of selling N95 masks, hand sanitizer, and personal protective gear — and soliciting donations to the “Global Coronavirus Relief Fund.” But federal prosecutors say Casper failed to deliver goods or donations, based on complaints from two dozen of his buyers.

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Straits Times
The Instagram account looked suspiciously like my own.

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POLITICO
Lockdown-stricken businesses and out-of-work citizens may not be the only ones eagerly awaiting emergency funds to fight the coronavirus crisis. As European governments prepare to unleash spending programs, loan guarantees and other forms of financial assistance, authorities and experts are warning that the unprecedented rush to bail out the economy risks providing openings for illegal exploitation.

Editor’s Note: Beyond to the unemployed, there are also large sums of money heading out to all sorts of organizations, meaning there is a risk of money laundering. POLITICO covers it as part of a series on dirty money in Europe. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

Reuters
Burr has denied wrongdoing and said he relied solely on news reports to guide decisions on stock sales, amid reports he and other senators sold shares after private briefings on the risks of the coronavirus crisis.

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BBC
Organised criminals will be exploiting loneliness during lockdown to take money from romance scam victims, a charity has said.

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New York Times
Fraudsters see opportunities to target us in these uncertain times. Here are their most popular schemes and how we can protect ourselves.

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Buzzfeed
A single mom to 2-year-old son Salem, Savage lost her job working as a bartender at a popular Indianapolis cocktail bar and her gigs working as a burlesque performer when the state shutdown occurred on March 16. She’d let her landlord know and they’d been texting about how she was waiting for the federal stimulus check to arrive to pay her April rent, when he suddenly inquired if she could get a ride and “stay all night” with him.

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ASPI Strategist
The Covid-19 crisis is revealing many truths about our society, not least that lies and misinformation can be just as infectious as any disease. Since Australians went into lockdown in March, we have seen conspiracy theories about the virus proliferate, a spike in Covid-19-themed cyber scams and online frauds, Chinese diplomats tweet misinformation about the virus’s origins, and the US president suggest injecting bleach as a potential treatment.

Editor’s Note: This one from Down Under straddles the line between economic crime and fake news, as is often the case with deception tactics online. Katherine Mansted and Hannah Smith explore the role of AI in scams and fraud online for ASPI Strategist. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

Guardian
With disinformation connecting coronavirus to 5G masks, fortune cookies and eating bat soup, here are some of the worst examples of misinformation surrounding the pandemic

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CNBC
In a blog post Wednesday, Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, called for the establishment of a federal price gouging law.

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Australian Associated Press
The tax office has frozen applications for early access to superannuation after identifying instances of identity theft.

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Associated Press
A 39-year-old former investment manager in Georgia was already facing federal charges that he robbed hundreds of retirees of their savings in a Ponzi scheme when the rapid spread of COVID-19 presented an opportunity.

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Tech Republic
Almost since the start of the coronavirus, cybercriminals have been exploiting the pandemic to deploy malware in an effort to scam people curious or fearful about the disease. Phishing attacks and phony websites have been two common tactics used by attackers. A report released Wednesday by fraud prevention company Bolster looks at some of the most popular scams seen during the first quarter of 2020.

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NDTV
The November 2019 reports of the Internet and Mobile Association of India suggests that India has 504 million internet users. According to the report, around 227 million of them are rural Indians, and about 205 million are from the urban areas of the country. The research also pointed that there are 21 percent more women online now, in addition to about 71 million children aged between 5-12.

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Digiday
Magazine publisher Immediate Media has seen a handful of low-quality ads — retailers selling products from overseas containing adult-rated content — crop up in its BBC Good Food app or on pre-roll video ads. One bad ad only had 10 impressions, said digital advertising strategy director Dominic Perkins.

Editor’s Note: The ad market has collapsed, though with it comes another knock-on effect, lots of bad ads rushing in to fill the void. Digiday digs into the issues including ads that masquerade as a way to hijack personal data. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

Komando
Almost since the start of the coronavirus, cybercriminals have been exploiting the pandemic to deploy malware in an effort to scam people curious or fearful about the disease. Phishing attacks and phony websites have been two common tactics used by attackers. A report released Wednesday by fraud prevention company Bolster looks at some of the most popular scams seen during the first quarter of 2020.

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Bloomberg
“Buyer beware” isn’t enough when it comes to antibody tests, where small errors can have huge consequences.

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CBS Chicago
How could someone who currently goes to work every day for the state get approved for unemployment benefits. Thousands of actual unemployed Illinoisans, who’ve been waiting months for their money probably would like an answer. CBS 2 Investigator Dorothy Tucker took that question and more to the state.

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The Hill
Never has Congress spent as much money as quickly as we have in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are on track to spend trillions of dollars—roughly the equivalent to the U.S. cost of World War II, which lasted four long years. We will be paying COVID-19 bills for generations, so every dollar should be wisely spent; otherwise our regrets will be monstrous.

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